Lila Quintero Weaver emigrated with her family from Argentina to Alabama in 1961 at the age of five. Her first graphic novel, Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White, looks back to her childhood as an immigrant in the Jim Crow South.
We asked Lila for a cartoon with a Southern theme. See what she sent us below, followed by a brief interview about the cartooning life.
THE OXFORD AMERICAN: What comics did you read as a kid? Which ones do you read now?
LILA QUINTERO WEAVER: Oh, I was such a girl when it came to comics. I read Archie & Veronica, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Dennis the Menace, and Classics Illustrated.
THE OA: All-time favorite cartoonist?
LQW: As a kid, I adored Mort Drucker. His parodies of popular movies or TV shows were the first things I devoured in every new issue of MAD magazine. Nowadays, my taste runs more in the direction of Peter Kuper, Lynda Barry, Joe Sacco, Hergé, and Craig Thompson.
THE OA: Did you ever consciously decide to be a cartoonist? Or were you always doodling and drawing your whole life, and then one day someone paid you for your art?
LQW: You got it. My first paid gig came about in the second grade—a set of decorated note cards for a lady my parents knew. She supplied the stationery and I drew my trademark little people on the cover of every card.
THE OA: Ever had any formal art training?
LQW: Some studio art and two of years of useless graphic design. I say useless because everything I learned was made obsolete by computers. I’m old as dirt.
THE OA: What’s your stance on superhero comics—love ’em, hate ’em, totally apathetic?
LQW: At around age ten, I developed a case of the hots for Robin, Batman’s sidekick. Ever since, I’ve been unmoved by men in tights. Or capes.
THE OA: Do you practice any other forms of visual art? Like graffiti, murals, photography, painting, sculpting?
LQW: Yes, I paint in oil, acrylics and pastel. I do collage for fun, and whenever I babysit my great-nieces, I dive into Play-Doh like I never left it. Oh yeah—I can also draw smooth curves on an Etch-a-Sketch.
THE OA: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your work?
LQW: Is it a compliment if a stranger confuses you with Erica, the soap-opera star? I got that recently. But I digress. John Hogan, the editor of GraphicNovelReporter.com gave my graphic novel, Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White, a five-star review on Amazon, which he also published on his site. I was big-time stoked when I saw that!
THE OA: What is the most inadvertently insulting things anyone has said about your work?
LQW: Every artist has heard this at one time: “What is that supposed to be?” Grrr.
THE OA: What non-cartoon art or literature or music inspires your work?
LQW: Would you believe me if I said sampling? I don’t actually listen to Lupe Fiasco, but I admire what he and others do with found sound. I’m drawn to the incorporation of cultural and literary allusion in any art form.
For this piece, I called on the simple but forceful visuals of a newspaper’s front page, especially newspapers from years back, when they seemed more conscious of their importance because they were the chief heralds of information.
THE OA: What do you hope to make your readers feel or think about when they see your work? Or is that not something you consider as you draw?
LQW: If my planning stages have gone well, in my final drawing I can dismiss outside voices. At that point, I’m just focusing on the interplay of light and shadow and attempting to build form with each pencil stroke. I figure that if I’m not having fun drawing, the reader won’t have fun looking.